Thursday, April 15, 2010

Knowing God's Will, and Catholic Freedom

Note: Please feel free to let me know if I ever misrepresent a tenet of our Catholic Faith. I will correct my mistake immediately.

Among my real life friends and my blogger friends, I've noticed that many devout Catholics get very stressed out in trying to discern God's will: Should I adopt this particular baby, should I marry this particular man, should I take this job, should I move, should I (fill in the blank)? How do I make sure that this choice is God's will and not my own? Ack! Help!

It's a very great thing to want to do God's will in all things, and it's nothing short of inspiring to hear and feel the sincerity of these pure-hearted women. My friends are my spiritual mentors in so many ways. I have learned and grown so much from them. Hugs and kisses to you all!

However, I started to notice that many faithful Catholics are so afraid they might somehow step outside of God's will that they become anxiety-ridden. The angst they feel in not wanting to offend God by making the "wrong" choice is severe, and it can be debilitating.

But we are Catholics, and that kind of burden is unnecessary! Here is what is so liberating about our Catholic Faith: When our intentions are good and the choices before us are moral, we are free.

Let me restate it another way: As long as we are not choosing something evil, or for evil intent, we are free to embrace any path that God opens before us. So, you are free to choose to adopt that baby, to marry that man, to move, to take that job, or any other morally licit option. You are also free to choose not to adopt that baby, take that new job, marry that man, etc.

This is the beauty of Catholicism. Our free will is a great gift that God gives us, allowing us the dignity to choose our own path, as long as we do not choose sin. Sin is the only thing that offends God, the only thing that he will not bless, and the only thing that is not within His active will for us. If we are not choosing sin, then we remain in a state of grace. This is a beautiful, liberating truth, which leaves little room for fear and anxiety!

But then, of course, the question becomes: How do we choose between two moral options?

Well, remember, we are talking about two moral and licit options (immoral choices are never acceptable). If God places two or more moral choices before us, then we should go with the choice which brings us the most internal peace. If we feel more tranquility at the thought of choosing Option A, then we go with Option A, even if Option A may actually cause us more external suffering or hardship than Option B.

But wait! This is important…. Even if a soul should "miss" whatever path God may have originally laid out for him/her (i.e., some people do miss their calling as a priest or religious), that person still has not committed a sin if his/her intentions were good. This is so important for people to know, especially the scrupulous. God will work with whatever path we have put ourselves on. He is not a puppet master pulling our strings. He is a loving Father who makes all things work for good for those who love Him.

Think about it: If I am a healthy parent, I will be happy to support my child whether he chooses to be a doctor or an artist or a carpenter. Those are all honorable goals. (Though I lean toward doctor, ha ha! Wait....maybe not under Obamacare....hmmmmm.) Anyway, you get my point, right?

So, enjoy the freedom of being a Catholic, as we are so blessed and have true freedom. We are not shackled slaves who have no liberty or choices (as so many people think of Catholics). I've lived both in the Church and outside of it, and the difference in peace and freedom is night and day.

Just for fun, and only tangentially related to this post, I will leave you with two amazing quotes from the great G.K. Chesterton (convert from atheism):

"The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man
from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.

"[When the convert] has entered the Church, he finds that the Church is much larger inside than it is outside."


  1. Wow, what a great post!!! You are wise ;)

  2. This post was extremely helpful to me...

  3. Ah, Leila! You make decision making sound so easy!

    Great post.

  4. Right on!

    And to back up your thoughts, there's a great book called "The Art of Discernment" by Stefan Kiechle. It's part of the Ignatian Impulse Series and is published by Ave Maria Press, so it's solid. It talks A LOT about choosing between two goods and walks you through the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius to make decisions.

    Great topic Leila!

  5. Ann,good point....I should have put in a caveat that this doesn't make decision-making a snap, it just eliminates the fear of offending God. Whew! for that part I say!! ha ha ha!

    Shannon, yay!

    Beth, you are sweet, but it's the Church who is wise! I'm a parrot. :)

    SC, great reference and I am glad you mentioned the exercises. I thought (but wasn't totally sure) that I heard some of this from EWTN when they were talking about St. Ignatius. The book sounds great, and another good one is by Fr. Michael Scanlan, What Does God Want?

  6. PS: If any of you ever catch me misstating or misunderstanding Church teaching, please tell me and I will stand corrected immediately! I want to make sure whatever I write is sound. :)

  7. I just finished a retreat based on the Spiritual Exercies of St. Ignatius and this is right on! St. Ignatius calls it "the good" and "the greater good" and while we should always strive for the greater good, God will punish us for doing the good if our intentions were in the right place.

    Great post!

    1. Over seven years later, someone pointed out the typo in this very excellent comment, and I thought I would correct it. Kaitlin meant to type "God will not punish us for doing the good if our intentions were in the right place."


  8. I love this post! It's true, sometimes we get so scared that we might "accidentally" sin!

  9. Love this post! Yep! God is so respectful of our free will and works with us even amidst our many imperfections and frail human understanding.

    Thank you for a wonderful reflection!

  10. Awesome, Leila. Father Pavone gave a homily the other day that discussed how we should reject anxiety and not think ourselves to be more powerful than we really are. Click Here to watch. He didn't mention the word "pride" but he did touch on it......and I know that Leila can explain better than I can that it is really quite often our own pride that causes us to have this type of anxiety.

  11. P.S. If you're pressed for time, I recommend you start listening at the 9:00 minute mark on the video.

  12. I needed this post to remind me that as long as I make good moral choices on my path of life...all will be good with God. Recently, my dh and I had to make some quick decisions and choices...both were in these cases we went with gut and peace and not risk and the fear of the unknown. Now I can finish my schooling with focus. It's where I am now and I will leave future decisions and the future. God Bless.

  13. Thank you so much for this post. People need to know this about the faith. We are free in Christ! Thanks for your witness!

  14. There was a point in my life that I thought I made the wrong choice that wasn't in God's plan for me. But it was not a sinful choice. I realize now that God's plan can change according to your choices and freewill. His plan is constantly evolving. As long as you do not make sinful choices you will end up enjoying the beautiful plan of God. Thanks for the great post. It clarified a lot for me!

  15. I just came across your blog, and this post was so helpful to me. Thank you! I've always feared making the "wrong" choice and upsetting God.

    Just the other day I had anxiety about getting married... after all these years of searching... am I doing God's will? What if I was supposed to search longer? Should I have turned down grad school for marriage? Am I an idiot who is just blind to the "right" choice? How do we know? I was going crazy. This helped soooo much.

  16. Sarah, I am so glad this helped to ease your mind!! That is exactly what I hoped would happen! God bless you, and congratulations on your marriage!! Yippee!!!

  17. Leila, Thank you so much for this post. This has truly opened my eyes and I know this will help to curb some of my fears and anxieties. Thank you again.

  18. Leila, this is a beautiful post. You are so right- and I thank you for sharing it with me. I'm sending it on to a friend who might appreciate it as well. And, for what it's worth, this is what I wrote on the subject after our last failed adoption. Sigh...

  19. Leila,
    I'm 17 years old (18 on the fourteenth) and at a very difficult time of my life where these words have become something I really needed to hear. They've set me free, in a way, from much of my depression and I'm not so scared of my future as I was an hour ago. I copied down about half of it in my leatherbound journal and will return to read it whenever I feel like I'm in a box again.

    I want to talk about this on my blog and add some commentary.

    But the point is, you haven't an idea how much this has set me free and helped me understand my free will and my role as a Daughter of the King. God Bless.

  20. This post is particularly helpful for me. In recent years I have been discerning and praying to God for a church ministry to serve well in. However, my 3 attempts met with 'failure' due to pettiness and jealousy from some members in the group. And I had all the good intentions to serve the Lord well! But your post has enlightened me that it's ok to discern wrongly as long as my intentions are good. I will not give up but continue to look for other ways to serve in my church


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